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Album/Mixtape Review

Premiere: DJ Black Coffee’s Album ‘Subconsciously,’ Is Created With A Clear Purpose In Mind: Freedom

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Nathi Maphumulo is best known to his fans as Black Coffee, a world-renowned DJ and producer who is considered the godfather of South African house music. The legendary artist hasn’t released an album in five years until today, Feb. 5, as he releases his highly-awaited sophomore album, Subconsciously.

The 12-track body of work is texturally varied and sonically diverse, boasting everything from euphonious, emotion-tinged soundscapes to warm piano chords, deep house music, sultry melodies, hypnotic beats, soulful vocals and more. Subconsciously also features an impressive lineup of collaborations with global stars, including Pharrell Williams, David Guetta, Diplo and Usher. Indeed, the LP can be considered a career-defining album from one of the world’s most prominent producers.

For an album named Subconsciously, the sixth studio album from South African DJ, producer, and artist Black Coffee is one created with a clear purpose in mind: freedom. Through open, stripped-back productions where lyrics and mood take center stage, he weaves his way out of traditional dance and electronic artist expectations—and even those of an African artist—into a space that’s more melody- and mood-driven than any of his previous LPs.

“The main event for me on the album is the sound,” he tells Apple Music. “On my previous albums I would sit down with an artist and we’d discuss what we’d want to write about. This time, I relied more on the singers and songwriters. I want the melody to be right. Then the lyrics can follow.” After releasing almost every track on its own ahead of the official album release (“Because people miss songs sometimes if you just drop an album”), here, Black Coffee offers up a track-by-track guide through his latest genre-bending body of work.

Lost (feat. Jinadu)
“’Lost’ is a song that originally was created by my friend [Greek artist] DJ Angelo. We spent some time in Italy and one day we were out on a boat; we had lunch and he played a song he was working on. And it just blew me away. It was even more minimal than it is now. So I was like, ‘Man, my album is full, but if I wasn’t done, I would take the song.’ It just belongs in the stories that I’m trying to tell, because I’m trying to include all of these different elements. I always felt like I needed an open, slow-tempo house song. I just added the elements that would make it have my presence, but without overwhelming the song.”

You Need Me (feat. Maxine Ashley & Sun-El Musician)
“Sun-El Musician gave it that feel. I was telling my management, there’s a guy that I think can change this around. I have done everything else on the album and I’m not getting the song right. I’m not doing justice to Maxine and what she had done on the song. So we sent it to Sun-El and it just became the way it is, so different, how it builds up and that the groove that he created, still using some of the elements that I used, but different. It’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever been involved in and it just lives in its own place and I love that.”

SBCNCSLY (feat. Sabrina Claudio)
“This is a new-age Black Coffee sound, and it represents what I’m trying to be, and the space I want to be in. I’m turning 45 this year [2021]. By the time I’m 50 I want to have a discography of beautifully written music. Some of it will even have no drums. I want to make stuff with an orchestra and a singer. This one is so clean, it’s so spacey and so nicely arranged. And the groove is not trying to be in your face; it’s not trying to make you move. This is why it became the title track, because I wanted it to have some kind of focus.”

I’m Fallin’ (feat. RY X)
“RY X is an Australian singer, songwriter, producer. I sent him a groove and then he wrote on it. I often send artists a groove, and I know for a fact that it’s not going to be the final one. But he got married to it. I wasn’t so sure. So it took a lot of back and forth. At the end, I just felt like it also came down to being African and artists understanding rhythm differently. I had also been playing the song already in my DJ sets and people were loving it as is. I kind of had to put my foot down. But I love everything about [that journey], because he’s a producer as well. He edited so many elements on this song that just made it so full and very emotional. Before he even starts singing, I was in awe. That’s what I wanted [for this album]: each song to just be independently beautiful.”

Time (feat. Cassie)
“This is one of the first songs that we did, and it just set the mood for what I was trying to do. So we did what we did with Cassie and we got other songwriters to help and just add stuff, so that it’s like a fuller song.”

LaLaLa (with Usher)
“We [originally] worked with Lucky Daye, who I see as a younger version of Usher. I was listening to that version for so long that I wondered if Usher would be able to do it better. And he truly did. His experience came through. It was so cool to do a song like this with an artist like Usher, who I grew up idolizing. For this, it took a while to get to that space of being unlimited by genre, because the first time we spoke on the phone, his thoughts on what we would do were different from mine. And that’s why eventually it was misquoted [in the press]: ‘Usher says Black Coffee’s not African enough.’ I just wanted to do it different. You can go online now and search for Afro, pop, whatever. It’s going to give you that new tempo thing. And so it was hard to explain what I’m trying to do. It was hard to explain that [the expected African sound] was actually not what I wanted to do.”

Flava (feat. Una Rams & Tellaman)
“I was in the studio with Swizz Beatz in New York and played him this. He pulled me aside and told me he wanted the song for his own album. The guy’s very persuasive! He was first planning on putting Chris Brown on the track, then a few months later he told me Alicia Keys wanted the song with a Justin Timberlake feature. Time passed, and I sent a Swizz a text message: ‘Bro, I’m taking my song back.’”

10 Missed Calls (feat. Pharrell Williams & Jozzy)
“Jozzy is one of the most gifted songwriters of all time, and yet people don’t really know her. In the studio, she just started mumbling the melody, which was so beautiful to watch. She said, ‘Put me in the booth,’ and mumbled the entire song, beginning to end—just the melody. She came back, played back, turned the mumbles into lyrics, and created a story out of the mumbling. And went back to the booth and sang the song. I was like, ‘We have to keep you on the song. I don’t see anyone else.’ Then Pharrell comes in right at the end. We kept trying different things and we’d go home thinking, ‘Okay, this sounds good, but let’s work on it.’ And my management just thought we should just send Pharrell what we’d been doing. Pharrell is like a magician when it comes to bridges in songs.”

Ready for You (feat. Celeste)
“Some collaborations kind of fall into my lap. Celeste was done with her album, and this was a song that didn’t make the cut and she didn’t want to work with electronic music. It was an acoustic version, just her and the piano, which I thought was a really beautiful song. So when I was given the song, I loved it. I loved how it started, and that’s the part that always gets me: the beginning, and how a song starts. We worked on it, and I involved Sun-El Musician. And it was then night and day—he added so much warmth and took it to greater heights.”

Wish You Were Here (feat. Msaki)
“We lack songwriters in South Africa—we have so many singers, but we don’t have enough writers like Msaki, who is dangerous with the pen and how she uses English. This track makes me happy, you know? It has its own life.”

Drive (with David Guetta, feat. Delilah Montagu)
“This took us to different kinds of listeners and became a win-win, because [co-writer and producer] David Guetta is also trying to live beyond EDM. David sang a melody and said, ‘This is what we need to work with. This is the song.’ Some producers will bring a tool, some will bring a loop, some will bring a melody—and he came with this loop, which formed the main hook. I felt like we’d got the production right, but the texture of the voice was more on the EDM side. So we found Delilah. I sent it to David, but he wasn’t into it—the vocal was too jazzy for him. However, he was the bigger person and said, ‘OK, we’ll go with this one.’ That shows his power. This is why he wins. He’s human before being a superstar.”

Never Gonna Forget (with Diplo, feat. Elderbrook)
“This one surprised me. I just felt like it was almost on the cheesy side. It almost didn’t make the album. But when it came out, how people received it, it just blew me away. It gave the album that balance that I felt we needed. Diplo is one of the sharpshooters of the industry. You find him on everyone’s albums and he’s consistent. He’s always super versatile and he knows how to place himself. He knows how to always be on the right side of history, musically. And Elderbrook has a really amazing energy; he’s a talented guy, and super energetic onstage.”

Album/Mixtape Review

Niro Walter Amps Up Productive Streak With Debut Album ‘’Focus’’

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Sometimes you’ve got to lose some to win some and that’s the crux of Niro Walter’s debut album, ‘’Focus’’. Packing 13 songs and no feature in sight, Niro together with his producers of choice; Ksmithmajik, Limber, David Acekeyz and Supa Gaeta, put in the work to deliver a balanced album worth your time.

‘’Focus’ is available on all digital streaming platforms globally here: https://fanlink.to/NirowalterFocus

The idea of releasing a 13-track album with no feature may come off as bizarre to many, but after a few songs in, it becomes pretty clear ‘’Focus’’ is no pushover. Niro simply knows what he’s about, as evident in his throaty voice, charisma and storytelling approach; which when paired with the record’s production ethos is bound to get music enthusiasts hooked.

‘Prayer Answer’ sets the album in motion, embracing Niro’s textured voice from onset. His style and attitude go a long way on this one, unraveling a message akin to its title. ‘Link Up’ then swoops in, boasting an upbeat and party-ready production. It’s riddled with some sultry innuendos and ad libs sure to let you in on its infamous theme before ‘Wahala’ takes over. The latter picks in on the former’s tempo, but in ‘’see me see wahala’’ style amid a banging hook. It’s a lengthy roaster from there, with ‘Drama’, ‘Money on My Mind’, ‘Gobe’, ‘SBBG’, ‘Corporation’, ‘Chilling’, ‘Faya’, ‘Marry You’, ‘God Bless’ and finally ‘Gbese’ rolling in to contend for your attention.

Born Osareniro Osamudiamen Walter, Niro Walter is an Afrobeat singer and songwriter who hails from Edo State, Nigeria. Having been active in the music scene since 2019, the burgeoning act found ground with two official singles; ‘Blessings Follow You’ and ‘No Giving Up’. Niro would go on to release his first ever EP ‘’Wealth of Tears’’ a year later, paving the way for his now debut album, ‘’Focus’’. His gift to deliver a soothing feel, as well as inspire people through music is paramount to Niro’s philosophy and one he prides himself in.

Niro Walter hits the right notes in the nicest of ways and with an array of 13 songs to muster, ‘’Focus’’ may not be for everyone, but has something for everyone. Yes, a few guest appearances would’ve been welcome, but with a theme tailored to his goals, ‘’Focus’’ still rocks enough charm to sell Niro’s frame of mind in a very familiar way.

Instagram: nirowaltermusicofficial
Facebook: Niro Walter
Twitter: @wotnirowalter

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Album/Mixtape Review

Premiere: Zed Ay Kay Dazzles Fans With Eagerly Awaited Debut Album ‘’Versatility’’ [Stream Here]

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After a long period of anticipation, Zed Ay Kay has released his much-anticipated debut album ‘’Versatility’’. Zed Ay Kay has however not been totally absent from the music scene, in fact the 14-track album is a combination of some released and some unreleased songs spanning the last 5 years.

The aptly named ’’Versatility’’ album is a blend of different music styles which Zed Ay Kay describes as the different genre of music he likes to listen to. The choice of versatility as a title is also a reference to his artistic diversity.

The masterfully crafted album has a list of impressive producers including Guilty Beatz, highly rated UK Afrobeat producer, Jay Brown, Luv Number Productions, as well as Wei Ye Oteng who produced a huge chunk of the album, among others.

The list of featured artists is just as impressive with a host of both Ghana based and international artists, including FOKN Bois, Jamaican Dancehall queen, Stacious, UK based RnB singer, Candy, Ras Kuuku, Yaa Pono and Italian X-Factor winner Jiggy, who was Zed Ay Kay’s former group mate in his Replay days. Zed Ay Kay said, ‘’The album has a bit of everything – from Highlife, Hiplife, Reggae, Afrobeats and Afro-Pop, so get ready to listen, singalong and dance’’.

The album is a true representation of the talent Zed Ay Kay processes. It captures his unique style, with very well produced music which has become what we expect from Zed Ay Kay. Although Zed Ay Kay is still not classed as a mainstream artist, this album has all the hallmarks of one made by a seasoned artist and is certainly going to be a game and the perfect prescription for good music lovers all over the world.

The ’’Versatility’’ album is available on all digital streaming platforms globally here: https://songwhip.com/zedaykay

Twitter: @Zeday_kay
Facebook: Zed Ay Kay Page
Instagram: zedaykay

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Album/Mixtape Review

Talented Nigeria Record Producer, Pheelz, Drops His Debut EP ‘Hear Me Out’ [Stream Here]

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Prolific Nigerian record producer, Pheelz Mr. Producer has released his debut body of work tagged “Hear Me Out” the EP. On this project, the talented Afrobeats producer known for his tagline as ‘Riidimakulayo’, shows off his musical prowess as he shares with the world what he has been working on. The project, which is an extended play, serves as a testament to his versatility as a songwriter, singer, composer, and music producer.

On the 5-track EP, the musical maestro unleashes new melodies that complement his vibrant instrumentals. ‘Hear Me Out’ is Pheelz’s first attempt at a musical project as an artist and it is definitely worth a listen. Stream EP here: pheelz.lnk.to/HearMeOut

Born Phillip Kayode Moses, the Nigerian record producer and Songwriter has worked with a vast array of artists and musicians, ranging from Olamide, Tiwa Savage and everyone in between. According to his Wikipedia, He is credited to have produced all but one song in Olamide’s Baddest Guy Ever Liveth album. His breakthrough as a record producer came in 2012, when he produced the chart-topping singles by Olamide titled “First of All” and “Fucking With The Devil” off his YBNL album.

In 2013, Pheelz was listed in NotJustOk’s “Top 10 Hottest Producers in Nigeria”. He produced all but one song in Olamide’s Baddest Guy Ever Liveth album, a move which made him gain grounds in the Nigerian music industry and won him a nomination at The Headies 2013. In 2014, he was also nominated in the “Producer of the Year” category at the 2014 edition of The Headies and at the 2014 Nigeria Entertainment Awards.

Pheelz has gone on to produce and be credited in popular songs and albums including The Chairman by M.I, Ghetto University by Runtown and Seyi or Shay by Seyi Shay. In 2014, Pheelz collaborated with COPILOT Music and Sound on a cover of Carlinhos Brown’s “Maria Caipirnha (Samba da Bahia)”. The arrangement represented the musical instrumentation and styles of Nigeria for Visa’s “Samba of the World”, a digital campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

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Album/Mixtape Review

Mr. Eazi Creates A New Sound With His EP – Something Else [Stream Here]

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Though he spent most of 2020 continuing to build his multi-armed entertainment empire, Mr Eazi found himself drawn back to the studio to create 2021’s Something Else. “This project was inspired by Kel P and Killertunes,” he tells Apple Music—the producers “who kept coming to meet me in Accra until I finally started recording”. A dramatic opener, “The Don” fuses operatic flair and Afro-trap for a relaxed invitation into his kingdom. Stream here: Mr Eazi – Something Else – EP (lnk.to)

“I spent the entire year working on building emPawa Africa and morphing into ‘Don Eazi’ the mogul,” he explains.

Yet the entrepreneur and record label founder never strays too far from mentoring and supporting emerging African artists: “Cherry” features Kenya’s Xenia Manasseh, an alumnus of the emPawa talent incubator programme. There’s classic Eazi here, too, with tender Afrobeats moments that work for club nights and family celebrations (“Love for You”), and an ode to long-term relationships that’s reminiscent of vintage Ghanaian highlife sounds (“E Be Mad”).

Mr Eazi is on a constant high to please his fans. He is reportedly working on his third album Life is Eazi, Vol 3 in Ghana and we can’t wait to see what else “The Don” has to offer.

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